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Paperback The Nicomachean Ethics : Aristotle Book

ISBN: 0023895306

ISBN13: 9780023895302

The Nicomachean Ethics : Aristotle

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Book Overview

Enduringly profound treatise, whose lasting effect on Western philosophy continues to resonate. Aristotle identifies the goal of life as happiness and discusses its attainment through the contemplation of philosophic truth.

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Doing the right thing

Aristotle was a philosopher in search of the chief good for human beings. This chief good is eudaimonia, which is often translated as 'happiness' (but can also be translated as 'thriving' or 'flourishing'). Aristotle sees pleasure, honour and virtue as significant 'wants' for people, and then argues that virtue is the most important of these. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes the claim that happiness is something which is both precious and final. This seems to be so because it is a first principle or ultimate starting point. For, it is for the sake of happiness that we do everything else, and we regard the cause of all good things to be precious and divine. Moreover, since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete and perfect virtue, it is necessary to consider virtue, as this will be the best way of studying happiness. How many of us today speak of happiness and virtue in the same breath? Aristotle's work in the Nicomachean Ethics is considered one of his greatest achievements, and by extension, one of the greatest pieces of philosophy from the ancient world. When the framers of the American Declaration of Independence were thinking of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is little doubt they had an acquaintance with Aristotle's work connecting happiness, virtue, and ethics together. When one thinks of ethical ideas such as an avoidance of extremes, of taking the tolerant or middle ground, or of taking all things in moderation, one is tapping into Aristotle's ideas. It is in the Nicomachean Ethics that Aristotle proposes the Doctrine of the Mean - he states that virtue is a 'mean state', that is, it aims for the mean or middle ground. However, Aristotle is often misquoted and misinterpreted here, for he very quickly in the text disallows the idea of the mean to be applied in all cases. There are things, actions and emotions, that do not allow the mean state. Thus, Aristotle tends to view virtue as a relative state, making the analogy with food - for some, two pounds of meat might be too much food, but for others, it might be too little. The mean exists between the state of deficiency, too little, and excessiveness, too much. Aristotle proposes many different examples of virtues and vices, together with their mean states. With regard to money, being stingy and being illiberal with generosity are the extremes, the one deficient and the other excessive. The mean state here would be liberality and generosity, a willingness to buy and to give, but not to extremes. Anger, too, is highlighted as having a deficient state (too much passivity), an excessive state (too much passion) and a mean state (a gentleness but firmness with regard to emotions). Aristotle states that one of the difficulties with leading a virtuous life is that it takes a person of science to find the mean between the extremes (or, in some cases, Aristotle uses the image of a circle, the scientist finding the centre). Many of us,

Doing the right thing

Aristotle was a philosopher in search of the chief good for human beings. This chief good is eudaimonia, which is often translated as 'happiness' (but can also be translated as 'thriving' or 'flourishing'). Aristotle sees pleasure, honour and virtue as significant 'wants' for people, and then argues that virtue is the most important of these. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle makes the claim that happiness is something which is both precious and final. This seems to be so because it is a first principle or ultimate starting point. For, it is for the sake of happiness that we do everything else, and we regard the cause of all good things to be precious and divine. Moreover, since happiness is an activity of the soul in accordance with complete and perfect virtue, it is necessary to consider virtue, as this will be the best way of studying happiness. How many of us today speak of happiness and virtue in the same breath? Aristotle's work in the Nicomachean Ethics is considered one of his greatest achievements, and by extension, one of the greatest pieces of philosophy from the ancient world. When the framers of the American Declaration of Independence were thinking of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, there is little doubt they had an acquaintance with Aristotle's work connecting happiness, virtue, and ethics together. When one thinks of ethical ideas such as an avoidance of extremes, of taking the tolerant or middle ground, or of taking all things in moderation, one is tapping into Aristotle's ideas. It is in the Nicomachean Ethics that Aristotle proposes the Doctrine of the Mean - he states that virtue is a 'mean state', that is, it aims for the mean or middle ground. However, Aristotle is often misquoted and misinterpreted here, for he very quickly in the text disallows the idea of the mean to be applied in all cases. There are things, actions and emotions, that do not allow the mean state. Thus, Aristotle tends to view virtue as a relative state, making the analogy with food - for some, two pounds of meat might be too much food, but for others, it might be too little. The mean exists between the state of deficiency, too little, and excessiveness, too much. Aristotle proposes many different examples of virtues and vices, together with their mean states. With regard to money, being stingy and being illiberal with generosity are the extremes, the one deficient and the other excessive. The mean state here would be liberality and generosity, a willingness to buy and to give, but not to extremes. Anger, too, is highlighted as having a deficient state (too much passivity), an excessive state (too much passion) and a mean state (a gentleness but firmness with regard to emotions). Aristotle states that one of the difficulties with leading a virtuous life is that it takes a person of science to find the mean between the extremes (or, in some cases, Aristotle uses the image of a circle, the scientist finding the centre). Many of us,

Neither a Rule nor Relativist Book!

Like laws, rules are general. However, particular cases will arise in which it is unclear how the law or rule is to be applied and unclear what justice demands in a given case. If no ethical formula exists to act right then we must on occasions act "according to right reason" (Ethics, 1138b25). To judge "according to right reason" is to judge more or less by putting to use Aristotle's notion of a 'Mean' and general characterization of the virtues (courage, restraint, truthfulness, patience, friendliness, etc., among some of Aristotle's "mean" virtues) and act accordingly. An enriching classical "guidebook" that appropriates itself TODAY as it did and has throughout history. Our humanness and relationships, contacts, political associations or whatever else you may call "interaction" with fellow human beings will always exist and pose situations in how to 'act right'. When one has consideration of others one will desire to think and act in a way of securing the happiness of self and others. Achieving the highest human good is becoming good men and women. That good is happiness.

The Book that Created Ethics; Don't Miss It!

The Nicomachean Ethics is the first systematic description of an ethical system. It has the clearest formulation of the questions that Ethics asks: 1. How should we live? 2. Why? 3. Why is that best? Aristotle's answer to 1. is that we should avoid extremes, because (answering 2.) every extreme is evil, and (answering 3.) since the opposite of any extreme is itself an evil extreme, we must therefore avoid extremes. The book has been read by every serious ethical philosopher since history began. Because of this, every serious ethical work can (and should) be read as a dialogue with Aristotle, as he sets the rules, and then challenges, "I know of no good that crosses all the categories . . . but in each category there is one particular good." Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals is an attempt to find a normative good that crosses all categories, a "categorical imperative." Likewise Bentham's discussion of what has come to be called utilitarian ethics. Really, a most important book.
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